Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 13:17-18

17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.

There is something very satisfying in God’s command to walk the length and breadth of the land, to feel out the whole of it. Even if Canaan was more humble than the plain of Jordan I get excited by the idea of Abram taking stock of the land that God is giving to him.

Maybe this stands out to me because my wife and I recently bought our first single-family home, and I very much enjoy walking between its borders, too! There is something so exciting about having a place of your own. Large or small, lavish or humble, it is the foundation to build your future from.

And now, at long last, we have Abram living fully within the boundaries of Canaan, the place that will be the backdrop for most of the Biblical record. In fact, all of the stories that Abram is best known for will all begin from here.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 13:10-12, 14-16

10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

14 And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:

15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

Abram was very decent in how he handled the conflict between his and Lot’s workers. In order to maintain the peace they needed to have enough space, and that meant separating from one another. Having determined this, Abram gave Lot the first choice of where to go. After comparing the two halves Lot took the better portion and Abram accepted the lesser.

And all this helped bring Abram into greater alignment with God’s plan for him. Long before, God had told Abram to go to Canaan, for that was to be the land for his inheritance, and now, at last, Abram was finally dwelling fully within Canaan’s borders. And there, in that promised land, Abram was met by reassurances from God that the covenants that had been made to him years before still held firm.

Just a few months ago God met me in the mountains with reassurances as well, telling me that promises and intentions He had for my life are still in full force. In our dealings with other people it is easy to wonder if the promises they’ve offered have expired, or if they’ve forgotten about them, or if they just don’t want to follow through on them anymore. But God reminded me that He isn’t petty, forgetful, or changing. That though time and circumstance may undo the pledges of man, those do not weigh on the covenants of God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 13:5-9

5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.

7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

Abram’s story has thus far been a family affair. He began with father, three brothers, and a nephew, and one-by-one his kin have been left behind while he continued through his journey. First his brother Haran died when the family lived in Ur of the Chaldees. Then the family left for Canaan and another brother, Nahor, elected to stay behind.

Abram, his father Terah, and his nephew Lot then came to rest in Haran, but eventually Abram’s father died and the Lord called Abram to travel farther. Abram and Lot sojourned together, to Beth-el, then to Egypt, then back to Beth-el, but now even they are going to part ways, taking Abram away from his last companion outside of his own household.

Bit-by-bit Abram has been made more and more alone as he grew into the man he was to become. And this is true for all of us. The more we develop into the individual God intends for us, the more we outgrow our previous trappings and the more we venture into unmarked waters, until we become an isolated pioneer. And then, even if family and friends are around us physically, we walk alone in spirit with our Maker. There, in the privacy of His hand we are transfigured into our full potential.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 12:6-8

6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

7 And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.

8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.

Abram went down to the land of Canaan, but it was not yet time for him to inherit that land, and so he pitched a humble home in the mountains. Many of the promises that were made to Abram were far-future blessings, some of them wouldn’t even be fulfilled until after he was dead and gone.

And so, Abram may have carried the promise of the Lord in his heart, but he had to keep moving forward with his life, according to what seemed right to him to do. He continued to live, waiting on the Lord to work things out in His own time. We do see in these verses that Abram built an altar to God in the meantime, and maintained a close relationship, continually calling on Him.

Many times we are also waiting on blessings, ones that God has given us a good hope for, but we don’t know the when or the how of their fulfillment. In those moments it doesn’t do to put our lives on hold until everything has been worked out for us. We continue to call on the Lord, but then we need to keep moving forward with what seems best, just as Abram did.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 12:1-5

1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

These are some extremely meaningful blessings being promised to Abram. A land to call his own, a prosperity that will become a great nation, a great name, and becoming a blessing to others. As I reflect on these I realize that they touch on all of the greatest desires that we each have. We all want to have a purpose which makes us come alive, a home to call our own, the opportunity to make a real difference in the world, and a legacy that lives beyond us. So each of us yearns to have God make these exact same covenants with us, too.

Though it is worth noting that receiving the promise of God is one thing, and obtaining the fulfillment of that promise is another. Abram is given the promise now, but as we will see, the fulfillment was doled out over many years and contingent upon great effort and sacrifice on Abram’s part. Great promises and the fulfillment of them are what God wants to extend to each of us, but we only gain both halves by continuing in a partnership with Him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 11:6-9

6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Previously God showcased His power in a very bombastic way by sending a flood to cover the earth. In this story, however, He reveals His ability to cause a shift through far more subtle means. It might not occur to us that simply confounding the language of a people would undermine their ability to finish a tower, but evidently that was exactly what happened. The people lost the ability to communicate, they gave up their project, and they scattered into their various clans.

God is all-powerful, but He is also all-knowing. He can impact the entire populace with a single, cataclysmic blow, but He can also touch each soul in an individual, precise way. And the methods that He uses may seem strange to us, but they are perfectly effective even so.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 9:11-13, 15-16

11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 

12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

We may forget the promises that we make to God, but He does not forget the promises that He has made to us. We may change our ways and become unfaithful, but He does not change and He does not stop being faithful.

How many times do we see a rainbow on the horizon and think nothing of it? Meanwhile, to God it is a solemn reminder of the pledge that He has made to us. How many times is God showing up to save and protect us, and we do not even see it?

Just recently I moved next to a lake, and it is a regular occurrence to see a rainbow bridging across it. I hope that the next time I do so I will feel more moved than usual. Hopefully I will be able to go and meet God at the altar where He is waiting.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 9:1-4, 6

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth

2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Today’s verses continue the theme of a new beginning for humanity. God is renewing the exact same commandments that He gave in the Garden of Eden, such as for mankind to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” and to have dominion over the animal kingdom.

The instructions are not completely the same, though, there are are a couple of differences. Now God mentions that the meat of animals is given as a food item, while in the Garden of Eden He had only mentioned fruits and herbs. There is also a new forbidden food item for humanity. Not the fruit of the tree of the knowledge anymore, but blood. And speaking of blood, mankind is expressly forbidden from murder, and a punishment is assigned if that commandment is broken.

It stands out to me how the story of Noah presents a shift in the relationship between God and man. All of the previous instructions between God and man took place in a simpler, idealized setting: the Garden of Eden, and as such the rules were much simpler. Adam and Eve were still innocent then, and therefore only needed very basic instruction. With Noah God is restoring His prior covenants, but several details have been added due to the more complicated nature of fallen man. In fact, I would say that God’s relationship with Noah is something of a middle ground between the simplicity of Adam and Eve and the even greater complexity of Moses and the Israelites.

Indeed we will see that the relationship between God and man becomes more and more complicated throughout the Old Testament, until the arrival of a Savior who is able to answer most of that complexity through his atoning sacrifice. Then things are able to be made far more simple again.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 8:20-22

20 And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

I mentioned yesterday how Noah represented a new beginning for mankind, and this notion is further echoed in today’s verses. And here we see that God is establishing a new covenant with mankind. The natural order of the world, its cycles and seasons, its days and nights, all these things will continue, and there will not be any more mass extinction.

And He promises this even knowing that man will go astray again. He calls out how “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” but that doesn’t change His promise. Jesus would accurately observe “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). From this point on it is official and covenanted: God knows that is committed to seeing this human experiment all the way through. No matter how many rebellions we make He will continue to work with us.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 8:1-5

1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged;

2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;

3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

I mentioned earlier how God relied on the slow and tedious process of Noah building the ark, rather than instantaneously popping one into existence as a miracle. And here again, He relies on the natural process of wind and the water is abated over time, it doesn’t just magically disappear all at once.

There was a time where I was praying for a metaphorical flood in my own life to be removed. And it was. As with this story, it was a long, drawn out process, but it absolutely was a miracle, and there absolutely was the hand of God in it. Just because we don’t always see the full results instantaneously does not mean that God isn’t prevailing in our lives.